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Annual Meeting December 13

posted Dec 1, 2017, 2:12 PM by Joe Christy

Our December annual meeting will feature guest speaker Jake Hess, CAL FIRE Deputy Chief Operations, San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit. Deputy Chief Hess and Battalion Chief Aldo Gonzalez were the Incident Commanders for the October 16-27 Bear Fire outside Boulder Creek.  His presentation will be on Bear Fire Lessons Learned. Chief Hess tells us:
… [H]ere some of the items that will inevitably come up at the talk:
This fire was terrain and fuel driven with little to no wind. This fire had significant potential and we ordered our additional resources accordingly. We entered into unified Command with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s department and issued evacuation orders. This fire had potential need to order a Type I incident command team, however we did not as we were able to handle the fires operationally and utilized a Marin County Type III team for Logistical support. The County EOC was activated and staffed with multiple agencies throughout the entire incident. Access and egress were an issue for responders as well as tight narrow unimproved roads and driveways. The air assets that we ordered played a significant role in the success of this incident due to inaccessible terrain. There were multiple injuries on this fire as well as an injury to a fire fighter classified as “significant”. Shelters were opened and identified for civilians in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties.
Please join us Wednesday evening, December 13, 7-8:30pm at the Bonny Doon Elementary School Multipurpose Room.

January Backyard Burn Workshop

posted Dec 1, 2017, 2:08 PM by Joe Christy   [ updated Dec 1, 2017, 2:15 PM ]

Since the CAL FIRE complete Burn Ban in Santa Cruz County was lifted on November 20, and the Monterey Bay Air Resource District’s Backyard Burn Period begins December 1, we will have a Backyard Burn Workshop, Saturday, January 13, 10am-Noon at 150 McGivern Way, Bonny Doon. We will discuss the newest MBARD Backyard Burn permits & regulations (which, for our area, are now more relaxed than in the), Safety, and Smoke Control. Most importantly, we will demonstrate current best practices for pile burning, learned from our experiences burning over 300 piles in fuel breaks in the 6 years since our first Workshop.

Thanks to Everyone Who Supported our 2107 Chipping Program

posted Dec 1, 2017, 2:04 PM by Joe Christy

In the past month, we finished our 2017 Chipping Program, later than we had planned, but in slightly less contractor time than we had anticipated. While we were pleased by being able to work on about 75 properties and to learn a lot about how better to run a chipping program, the greatest reward was the financial support from more than a dozen neighbors who contributed since of November appeal, which has left us with seed funds for a day and half toward our 2018 Chipping Program next spring. Please join them this December with a tax-deductible donation to help keep our community safe.

Chipping Program Begins

posted Oct 29, 2017, 6:10 PM by Joe Christy

After several false starts and much tuning of the program parameters, our 2017 chipping program has finally begun as write this. The response has been enthusiastic beyond our most optimistic expectations - nearly 75 households have signed up and been qualified. We’ve started in Pineridge and our plan, in the broadest strokes, is to proceed north up Empire Grade, visiting adjacent neighborhoods on the way, then return south and then southwest down Pine Flat. Despite equipment failures, we have spent nearly 4 full days chipping with another 4 days to come. Please note that applications for this year are emphatically closed, and if you’ve been accepted but haven’t yet been visited please resist the temptation to add to your pile(s). We estimate that our funding will allow us to complete all chipping, barely, and you should recall that the agreement that you signed does not guarantee that we will chip your pile(s) if we do run out of funding before we can finish.
As I was checking piles before we began, two sobering facts were driven home.

Fire Season Is Most Definitely Not Over

posted Oct 29, 2017, 6:09 PM by Joe Christy   [ updated Oct 29, 2017, 6:14 PM ]

Even though we had ¼” of rain the night of October 19-20, it immediately started to warm up, the winds returned and the humidity dropped precipitously. Moreover, due to critical weather conditions and fire activity, all Bay Area CAL FIRE Units, including the San Mateo‐Santa Cruz Unit, implemented a burn suspension banning all outdoor burning as of October 13, 2017. Nonetheless, one of our neighbors decided to get a jump on burning their brush first thing on the morning of October 21 and the fire quickly got away from them, sending spotter planes over the property I was visiting and engines down Empire Grade immediately behind me. The fire was quickly contained, but not before scaring most of us. Then another fire closed northbound highway 1 at the edge of town, even before the spotter planes could turn toward their base. That larger fire, which took the rest of the day to control, was again caused by human activity. It will take at least two days of soaking rain before there is any consideration of lifting the burn ban and considering declaring the end of fire season.

The Dangerous State of Our Shared Roads

posted Oct 29, 2017, 6:06 PM by Joe Christy

As I visited neighborhoods off the County roads, I was depressed to see how narrow and overgrown their access roads are. If fire visits those neighborhoods, virtually none of which have more than one way in and out, people are going to have to evacuate down a tunnel of flames and fire engines will be turned back by the threat to firefighters’ lives before they can reach and protect those evacuated homes. Just that did happen last year in Lake and Sonoma Counties, and again this year around Santa Rosa and across the San Lorenzo Valley from us. For all our sakes, please work with your neighbors to ensure that there is proper clearance along our shared roads, 10’ on either side by the State Fire Code. We are all in this together.

If You Like Our Chipping Program, Please Give

posted Oct 29, 2017, 6:04 PM by Joe Christy

The majority of the funding for our 2017 chipping program comes from individual donations. Every $1,100 that we collect will buy another day of chipping. We will certainly apply for grant funding for more chipping next year, but the suppression costs of this year’s wildfire season are already far greater than ever before, while both suppression and prevention budgets are being cut. BDFSC is an all-volunteer organization with no overhead beyond liability insurance. Please give to make Bonny Doon fire safe and urge your elected officials to increase both wildfire prevention and suppression funding.

2017 Chipper Program October 23-26++

posted Sep 30, 2017, 11:19 AM by Joe Christy   [ updated Sep 30, 2017, 11:25 AM ]

Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of a Bonny Doon resident and the collaboration of the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County and the Monterey Bay Air Resources District we are offering free brush chipping fall 2017.
The 2017 Chipper Program is a FREE fuel reduction service to reduce your community’s wildfire threat.  This program assists residents of Bonny Doon in complying with State and County defensible space regulations by providing chipping services to residents who clear vegetative fuels from their property.
BDFSC has contracted with Rohrbough Tree Service to chip vegetation removed in the creation and maintenance of defensible space at no cost to you. 
After considering the responses to last month’s announcement, we have decided to make the program open to individual landowners and less restrictive (see application).

Here’s what you need to DO:
1) Let us know that you will have piles to be chipped - print, read, complete both sides, and mail this application to 150 McGivern Way SC CA 95060 or email to:
2) Clear vegetation from 100’ around your house and along access roads to your house – for more info on Defensible Space see:
3) Bring the cleared brush to the road before October 16th – see Do’s and Don’ts for creating your piles in the application.
4) Celebrate contributing to your home and community’s fire safety!

Neighborhood Chipping in September

posted Aug 29, 2017, 4:15 PM by Joe Christy

Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of a Bonny Doon resident and the collaboration of the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County and the Monterey Bay Air Resources District we will be able to offer a free brush chipping program this September.
We anticipate sufficient funding for only four to five days of chipping, so we are interested in hearing from neighborhood groups and will be forced to prioritize neighborhoods according to need, impact on both securing shared roads and on defensible space, number of residents involved, along with other factors. To participate your neighborhood will have to organize and carry out the actual clearing of fuels and moving the slash to one or two central locations readily accessible by road. If your neighborhood would like to participate, please contact us, after August 28, via email to or call 831-824-4155. If you call and don’t get a human, please leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as we are able.

September and October Are Peak Fire Season

posted Aug 29, 2017, 4:11 PM by Joe Christy

Though historically Santa Cruz County has suffered wildland fires in every month of the year, the danger peaks as the dry season draws to a close over the next two months. Fuel moisture reaches its annual low point and last year’s rains have left us with an unusual amount of fast, flashy fuels. Moreover, virtually all wildland fires here are caused by humans so our care is the critical factor.

For our entire community’s sake, please be especially careful this year. Whether your neighborhood decides to take part in our chipping program or you and your neighbors are simply independently working on your own properties, or even if you are simply barbequing outside, be extra sensitive to sparks and how hot/dry/windy it is at the time. If you must use powered metal tools, do so in the cool of the day, before 10am, and have a ready source of water at hand. Many weed whackers can now be fitted with heavy duty string or nylon bladed cutting heads which are vastly less likely to cause sparks.

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